By Donathan Sakaln
Chelsea's U.S. Representative, Jerrold Nadler, was firing on all cylinders at a September 27 community forum sponsored by the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club (CRDC).
He blasted past and present Republican policies that have placed our country in "another Depression." He attacked the Senate for not passing a bill to reduce mortgage debt to avoid more foreclosures. He disagreed with President Obama's reluctance to raise taxes for the rich and large corporations during this deep downturn -- and he offered a recovery plan, based on history.
After two decades of logging miles between New York and DC, the engine that drives Nadler is as strong as ever. The Congressman claims that Republicans are following elitist ideals, holding the American people hostage by changing "the economic narrative" from progressive issues to the national deficit. "We do not have a deficit problem," Nadler declared. "We have a jobs and growth crisis."
On addressing the current economic problems he pointed out that, "What we have is the aftermath of a major financial crisis, more on par with the Great Depression and caused by the same things. Nearly 25 million Americans are unemployed or under-employed!"
Nadler -- former Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties -- reminded the packed house at Chelsea's Hudson Guild of legislative preventive measures put in place during the 1930s. "The New Deal," he recalled, "put into practice regulations on corporations and banks to prevent economic catastrophes -- regulations that worked until they were dismantled, starting in the 1980s."
His pictorial of the current economic landscape included a reckless Wall Street, huge Bush tax cuts for upper-income Americans (whose top four percent, he says, now have the lion's share of our wealth), two unfunded wars, the doubling of military spending (separate from the wars) and the lowering of taxes on corporations. "Corporations used to pay 30 percent of federal income tax receipts. Now they pay 8 percent. It is the lowest rate in the developed world. We have Exxon, with a $5 billion profit, paying no federal taxes. We have shifted a large share of the tax burden from the rich and large corporations to the middle class."
Nadler also brought solutions, alluding to New Deal funding of social programs, the implementation of unemployment benefits and the building of our infrastructure -- all programs "that got money into the working hands of America, so they could spend money and kick-start an economy." He blasted the Republicans of Congress for their commitment to cutting social programs which would reduce consumer spending, and then expressed frustration that banks were bailed out, while little relief was given to underwater mortgages (which would free up more money for spending). His comparison of European problems to a financial lab experiment drew many nodding heads: "We see now in Britain, Germany and Spain, when newly elected conservative governments enacted austerity programs, their economies are tanking."
After his presentation, when CRDC moderator Judy Richheimer opened up the forum to questions, local activist Leathea Varadore asked Nadler about the Spectra Gas Line that will run under the West Village. His response was forthright: "I'm not happy about the gas line but not absolutely opposed to it, because you have a real problem. I want to close down Indian Point Nuclear Plant. If we close it, something has to substitute. We can't oppose everything because otherwise we haven't enough energy."